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Rep. Mike Sparks passes bill creating street racing task force

State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, closed out the 113th General Assembly marking the passage of bipartisan legislation creating a task force to make Tennessee’s streets safer.

The Jacob (Jake) T. Barnhardt Act will create a 17-member task force to study and determine the practices and resources required at the local and state level to curb illegal street racing in Tennessee.

“Jake Barnhardt was an honorable Tennessean who was taken from his family in one of the most reckless and tragic ways possible,” Sparks said. “Illegal street racing is extremely dangerous and has taken far too many lives in this state and across the country. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for seeing the desperate need to address this issue in Tennessee.”

House Bill 2062 is named in honor of 34-year-old United States Army veteran Jake Barnhardt of Clarksville, who was killed in Nashville by a street racer traveling more than 100 mph, according to police. Jake, who served as a special forces combat medic, left behind his significant other and four children.

Law enforcement agencies and district attorney general offices have reported an uptick in cases related to illegal street racing and takeovers across Middle Tennessee in recent years.

During a six-month period in 2022, more than 300 arrests were made in Memphis for drag racing and reckless driving. In Nashville, more than 35 people have been arrested for street racing or street takeovers since March 2023.

The task force will include representatives from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and mayors and police chiefs or designees from Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Clarksville, and Murfreesboro. Additionally, one appointee each is allocated to the speaker of the House, speaker of the Senate and governor.

Recommendations from the group are to be reported to the General Assembly by Jan. 25, 2025. The legislation now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to be signed into law.

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